Fritz von Uhde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


She rose in frigid darkness,

hauled water from the well,

lit the fire, cooked the meal,

her work uninterrupted, invariable,

her duties clear,

no surprises, no light in her world,

(no lightness in her soul)

hours of toil,

before she could creep down the steps

to her cold, damp cell,

limbs stiff, ossified, a fossil of a woman

wearing her weariness like a shroud,

her life safe,

(as long as she could work)

well, safer than others,

who hid in fear,

she had a roof,

a bit of food,

she wished she could long for flowers

sunshine, love,

but the reality was

she only wished to survive.


This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge, using the words

Life/Work/Real/Safe/Clear.  I used reality instead of real.








The Gift

She was gifted / like a piece of clothing

a favor /  worn and tossed

a debt paid / mended

by caregivers without love / raised and lowered

to fulfill an obligation/ a hemline, inconsequential,

no more dreaming / she existed and cried for her childhood gone

life without meaning/ her tears fell to the ground

smothered joy /  and vanished


This is a cleave poem in response to the Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt #42,

using these words: Meaning/Raise/Cry/Dream/Ground

I was inspired , if that is the word, by this recent story. And by all of the women and children throughout time who have been kidnapped, enslaved, trafficked, considered spoils of war, or “gifted” to others.